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Category: Writing

Where do you get your ideas?

Where do you get your ideas?

One of the most common questions writers are asked is where they get their ideas. For me, different books begin in different ways. Usually, I get ideas by playing “what if?” It’s something I can do deliberately. I read something or hear a news item or even a commercial and ask myself if there’s some way it could be twisted to create a good story. Asking what if? That’s how I got the idea for The Wind Reader. I was…

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The hardest part of writing a novel

The hardest part of writing a novel

Sometimes people ask me what the hardest part of writing a novel is. That one’s easy. It’s sticking to it even when the first draft is inevitably terrible. But once I get past that, the hardest part of any novel to write is the start. Beginnings are incredibly hard because you have to accomplish so much—introduce characters, get the plot underway, and, in the case of fantasy, set up a bit of the world. As a consequence, I can’t think…

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Why Read (and Write) Fantasy

Why Read (and Write) Fantasy

Not infrequently, I run into adults who are clearly skeptical about fantasy novels. Sometimes they even ask why I write fantasy rather than something “real.” These same adults roll their eyes when their kids read Rick Riordan or J. K. Rowling and say, “Well, at least they’re reading,” as if a fantasy novel is some sort of lesser book that might build a bridge to “real” reading. In at least one way, I understand that skepticism because I’m an intensely…

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Write True

Write True

When I write, I usually have all sorts of sticky notes pasted around my desk and screen. Some of them are thoughts I don’t want to forget about the story I’m working on, but some of them are general writing advice to myself. Things like “Resist the urge to explain” and, most importantly, “Write true.” All good stories are true Truth matters. People instinctively recognize falsity even if they don’t articulate that recognition other than in the trivial way of…

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Fight scenes

Fight scenes

I’m just going to say it. Most fight scenes in books are boring. Large scale battles or one-to-one combat, they’re boring. At least in movie fight scenes, the audience gets spectacle. In books, you don’t even have that. Instead, in a book, story is happening. Then the story stops for three pages while people hit one another. Then the story starts again. Boring. Battle scenes as process scenes The tedium of most written fight scenes is a subdivision of the…

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Invoking fantasy gods

Invoking fantasy gods

When you set a story in a made-up or secondary world, one of the small but significant problems you run into is giving characters a good way to call on their god(s). They could be cursing, invoking a deity as witness, or maybe asking for a god’s help. This is challenging because in a secondary-world story, the author makes up things like the god(s), the cultural notions of the afterlife, and what kind of supernatural creatures might be around to…

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Turning points

Turning points

As part of revising middle chapters in my current draft, I’m looking at some notes I made on turning points while writing Deep as a Tomb. The typical problem in the middle of a novel is that the story sags. You’re not yet to the climax but are laying in all that has to happen before the climax can happen. That can drag.

How to Deliver Backstory

How to Deliver Backstory

Writing has ruined me as a reader. It used to be that when I stumbled in a book, I thought it was my fault. Now I usually blame the writer. I notice and nitpick things I used to let slide. One of those things is delivering backstory. What Is Backstory? Backstory is whatever happened before the book starts, so all books have backstory. In science fiction and fantasy, backstory sometimes also include information about the world that the character already…

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